When speaking to someone that has depression, it’s often hard to find the right words to say. While I know the intentions are usually good and thoughtful, I cringe at the things we often say to those suffering from depression.
“Why are you so sad?”
Okay, this is an extremely understandable question to ask someone who says they’re depressed. However, depression is not simply being sad; it is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Someone that is depressed honestly might not even be able to tell you why they are depressed.
My teacher once said “depression isn’t being sad. A lot of times it’s the lack of feeling anything. Those who are depressed often feel no emotions, which is usually even worse than feeling sad.”
“You don’t need your anti-depressants/ (insert other medication here).”
I know that this is usually a compliment as if to say “Wow! You look so happy and healthy”. Unless you are saying this because you don’t believe in modern medication, I don’t know.
But for the person on this medication, it may make them feel weak and guilty for using them as a crutch. When a person that struggles with depression seems happy, that means whatever they are doing is working. Whether that be medication, counseling, etc., encourage them to keep on keeping on!
“Have you ever thought of, you know, killing yourself? Suicide is so selfish to those that love you.”
Again, asking a person if they have considered suicide is a valid question and something I would probably ask someone if they were confiding in me about their depression. It’s not asking this question that can be problematic, it’s the tone and judgment associated. Suicide is often talked about as being selfish, but a person that suicide is selfish may not change their thoughts about killing themselves. They could even think that their family would be better without them.
I have had thoughts before that dealt with self-harm and I have been so ashamed to admit it because I’ve feared how others would react. Had I known someone who I thought would’ve listened without changing their view of me, I would’ve talked about my feelings.
“You’re too young to be depressed.”
Depression is not limited to adults or any particular person. Even though it is less common in younger ages, depression can happen in children and the elderly and all ages in between. I once talked to someone who had a child with extreme depression and anxiety, so much so that she could not leave her own house. After she was prescribed with proper medication, she began to act like a child again and was no longer confined to the walls of her home. Dismissing someone’s depression because of their age just simply doesn’t make sense but it happens all too often.
Things we should say more often that can make all the difference:
“I love you.”
“I’m here for you, 24 hours a day.”
“You can talk to me about anything, no judgment.”
“I may not understand how you feel, but I have two shoulders to cry on and two ears to listen.”
“Life may get busy, but I promise I value our relationship and will always be there for you.”